Can postmodern theory help fix our educational system today? This question will be answered in this paper as it highlights significant aspects of postmodernism related to strategic planning in educational leadership. Humans have made major accomplishments over the last century from landing on a moon to the development of nuclear technology, yet the major problems of the educational system remain. Who is to blame? Should we continue to blame our educational leaders or are we going to do anything about it? We often envision looking to the future but we seldom look to the past and learn from the mistakes of yesterday. In order to fix today’s educational problems, we have to rationally analyze the problems of the past and introduce the theory of postmodernism into our educational system. Educational leaders must escape out of their fear to bring change and take it as a challenge to fix educational system but it does require a passion for change, meeting the needs of all stakeholders of school.
There are too many lives and livelihoods at stake. This is not about politics and neither is it about who can reinvent the wheel and become famous for their efforts. This is about our educational system that is breaking America’s families’ future, prosperity, values and beliefs. With state legislature’s days away from finalizing the plan for educational reforms, it is time to reflect on our loss and stand up against traditional and bureaucratic leaders who continue to work in their comfort zone and never bring change that our educational system desperately needs today.
Ineffective leadership is the inability of the leader to learn from the past mistakes rather learning from them. In today’s educational system we have too many so-called leaders unfortunately most of them are very ineffective in dealing with the problems of the educational system. When the educational leaders defined educational philosophy doesn’t include epistemology (nature of knowledge), metaphysics (cultivate reality) and axiology (values), educational system is set for failure. Fearless educational leaders can bring change but with a strong belief for change to make a positive difference in the lives of every stakeholder of a school.
Purpose of the Article
The purpose of the article is to discuss postmodernism and its implementation in the school administration. Dr. Fenwick W. English has described in his book, The Postmodern Challenge to the Theory and Practice of Educational Administration, the theory of postmodernism and how it can change the educational system today. Educational leaders must believe in postmodernism theory in order to bring change in the educational system.
Modernism vs. Postmodernism
What is Postmodernism? According to English (2003), “Postmodernism is originally a critique of modernism in the arts and architecture. Today it can be characterized by “…. a state of mind, a critical, self-referential posture and style, a different of seeing and working” (English, 2003, p. 249).
Postmodernism demands for innovative and creative ways to improve the educational system. School administrators with a post modernistic approach can take the school so many years a head, where all students are successful and schools are technologically advanced.
According to English (2003),
Postmodernism is about constructing a way of looking at the world of ideas,
concepts and systems of thought through the historicity of context and the shifting nature of linguistic meaning and symbols as they are manifested in discursive practices which run through educational administration and related fields. (p.3)
We must think beyond modernism ways of dealing with students and stakeholders of schools. We need to meet the needs of all stakeholders while ensuring that they are part of a decision making process during campus improvement planning. Educational leaders usually get in their comfort zone and never think beyond changing the system of their school. They have a fear to align everyone’s vision as they see obstacles; school administrators stop and continue operating in their comfort zone.
English (2003) states: “The mental baggage of modernism is represented it the way conceives of itself as a compelling singularity: total, final and absolute” (English, 2003, p.62). Educational leaders with a tunnel vision, directs them to never think beyond modernism ways, they find everything absolute to not make any changes.
English says, “Postmodernism is not so much interested in the answers as the questions” (English, 2003, p.4). The question we must ask ourselves and our educational leaders, “Why problems still exist in our educational system today?” Demanding for solutions and collaboratively seeking solutions as a learning community develops innovative thinking that postmodernism enforces. English (2003) states: “Postmodernism reveals this blind spot, and as it does so, new directions, possibilities, and understanding about people, leaders, schools and society can be forged” (English, p. 59). This leads us to ask ourselves where went wrong with a modernistic approach.
What is modernism?
According to English (2003),
Modernism is a distinctive perspective, which arose in the seventh century and is captured by a faith in rationality and its principal method, Science. Modernism can be characterized as a pursuit of grand theories or grand narratives (metanarratives) which, following the principle of parsimony, attempt to explain the greatest number of phenomena in the smallest set of laws, axioms, or theories. (p. 248)
Modernists do not want to discuss the issues that postmodernists highlight because modernists are comfortable with their acquired beliefs which they believe are superior. Modernists believe that postmodernism is not practical in a sense that it cannot guide daily classrooms, or administrative work. Modernists believe that modernism (Science) is defined by its methods. They believe that postmodernism lacks new concepts and definitions and it proposes nothing new and has no solid foundation.
As effective educational leaders, we have to ask questions such as where we went wrong, and seek solutions instead of continuing to play the blame game.
Current methods in our education have not solved the major sociopolitical and instructional problems of race or class, and our educational leaders have done nothing to solve so many other issues that exist today in our educational system. Let us think for a moment as to why we have such high student drop out rate, why so many students are sent to the alternative schools for discipline purposes, why there is a lack of parental involvement in our schools across the nation and why teachers’ turnover rate is increasing rapidly? Answers and solutions to all these questions and issues can be resolved if the leadership at all levels come together, putting away the politics and working towards establishing holistic programs and curriculum catering to the needs of all stakeholders (parents, teachers, students, community members) of school, and implementing highly effective programs in schools to bring a positive change. If modernists continue looking for flaws in postmodernism to justify their methods, it will take strong post modernistic leaders to wipe out the bureaucracy that still exists today in the state legislatures’ administration office where all educational policies and procedures are formed.
How about putting the politics away for a moment and focusing on the future of our students? Schools where teachers are empowered and satisfied are the type of schools that practice postmodernism. Every year we lose quite a chunk of money in hiring new teachers in schools because of the ineffective mentoring programs established by traditional leaders. Traditional leaders can automatically be replaced once post modernistic culture and climate is fully embraced into the educational system. Traditional leaders will not have a chance to survive in such an educational system that promotes postmodernism. There will be no place for them to continue practicing such leadership styles. Schools can be established where students are respected at all times and in their minds and hearts there is a shared belief that their teachers are passionate about educating and seeing them successful. Passionate educators can help lower the drop out rate of students. Educational leaders need to develop teachers who have a passion for not only teaching but also have an ability to build such rapport with students that impact them greatly preventing them from dropping out of the school.
Why are there so many theories and conceptual ideas that become the vision of the schools? They seem to be replaced quite rapidly by new theories and conceptual ideas. Is it about money? Changing the name of the theory would not improve the educational system while the concepts remained the same. Why are school leaders never able to achieve the vision? A written vision looks great on a piece of paper and on a website; however, if it is not achieved at the end of the academic year, then who are we fooling? Achieving great results on standardized state assessments does not make a school exemplary. Schools are considered exemplary where all stakeholders of a school are working towards the shared mission. An exemplary school is where students are successful contributing citizens and community builders.
In conclusion, there are many deficiencies in our educational system today. Facing these deficiencies requires the educational leaders to be fearless in bringing change. They must analyze in depth, the educational problems and strategically plan on integrating postmodernism approach to solve the problems. Postmodernism approach must be applied in schools today to improve our educational system, meeting the needs of all stakeholders. School leaders have a major responsibility to guide the schools by becoming effective instructional leaders, administrative leaders, and the school community leaders.